Every elementary school student who takes a civics or history class learns the textbook definition of how a bill becomes a law: That process involves public hearings and scrupulously accepting input from all parties in an open, transparent process before a consensus is reached.
But the reality in the frenzied final hours of the Connecticut legislative session is that many issues get passed in a mad scramble. Some legislators find out too late about what is actually happening as items are slipped into the nearly 500-page general budget-implementation bill in back-door maneuvers when battle-weary and sleep-deprived legislators are too tired to notice.
Sen. Joseph Markley, a Southington Republican who served in the Senate in the mid-1980s, said that the practice of making last minute additions like these is a relatively new practice, one that legislative leaders used to strongly discourage.
“I think it’s important that we recognize that the way we’re handling that is bad public policy,” he said. “Of the things I’ve seen change, the change I’ve seen in the implementer process is the single worst thing.”
But Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams Jr. defended the process, saying that pushing the bill through quickly actually cut down on the number of special requests by rank-and-file lawmakers.
“I think the best way to do it is exactly the way we did it this session, which is completed on time, during the regular session,” said Williams, of Brooklyn. “The flip side is to do it weeks or a month or so later. … The longer you take to put together the implementer, the longer the list of requests becomes.”